The old people were a pair of capital Ps, their hands on their aching hips as they shuffled
through the mornings. Whole meals accomplished without a word. How could they balance
on the long bridge of that silence? Their heads rolled back against the antimacassars, and under
the blare of television, I stood over them, grazing his stubble with my eyes, his jowls, waiting
for the back half of a snore, her knitting quiet, skin crackled like freshly broken ice. How
could they see through the spattered lenses? I mocked her when she asked me to thread
the needles that would mend my clothes. How was I to know that the tar paper wrapped
around the roses for winter was not protection enough? On one hand alone: the memory
of freckles, little continents of liver spots, raised rivers of blue ropes, dark broken blood vessels
berry-staining fingertips, a blister from the rake, white lies under the nail bed, and a Band-aid.
When they spoke to friends, they said we kept them young. Perhaps it was tobogganing or
shoveling the rink. How could loss be the source of such power? Impossible to think of them
as young until silence chewed at our dinner table.